Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Across the Distance
by Eric Del Carlo

In the Not-So-Helpful Unit
by Jeremy Szal

I-Juca-Pirama and Rosegarden
by Santiago Belluco

Snow Sharks
by Mord McGhee

A Chip Off the Old Block
by Eamonn Murphy

Girls of Summer
by Rick Novy

Most Certainly
by Brad Preslar

Psi Prison
by Michael Andre-Driussi

Shorter Stories

Revolution 2038
by Darren Goossens

by Jason M. Harley

Junkyard Dog
by Devin Miller


Playing With Dinosaurs
by Chett Gottfried

Prehistoric Monsters Roar on Screen
by Andrew R. Boone



Comic Strips




I-Juca-Pirama and Rosegarden

By Santiago Belluco

I USED TO HAPPILY TOUCH MYSELF under the sheets as we sang the Zanita-Müller corporate anthem, first in German, then French. When the lights went off I would sneak into the bed of one of the other vat-grown girls in my dorm and we would pleasure ourselves, very much against Corp guidelines. Our overseers probably knew but must have turned a blind eye because we were so young. As we grew older most of the girls bought into the bullshit of ascetic distancing, but I continued to sneak around at night.

The Corp guidance algorithms eventually placed me as a Networked Systems Engineer with a minor in Neuroscience, balancing my carefully monitored aptitude with current Corp needs. The work was fine, interesting even, but I lived to find the few women who were still willing to disregard the central tenets of Z-M culture. Then I caught the Clamp during a routine assignment to the Brazilian jungle.


The rifle presses against my arm with satisfying heft. I stabilize the weapon on a root curving out of the waterline, my eyes closed for remote targeting, my head underwater. The rifle is large but hidden by the dense tropical foliage that crowds the riverbank. I resist the urge to check the gun again and instead remotely access my optogenetically controlled fish at the bottom of the river to run a diagnostic on their modified teeth. My prosthetic arms are nominal, as are my detachable flippers and centipede-tongue. Nothing like properly calibrated gear.

Small red text scrolls left in the corner of my vision, each of my Raiders checking in, marking another half-hour waiting. A four character text pip comes up, indicating all my thirty-seven women reported in. It’s a big risk to have all of us together for one mission, but this one is worth it, for today we steal the cure to the Clamp.


When I noticed the telltale bumps in my vulva I immediately reported to the local Zanita-Müller wellness center, a squat building in Manaus with green walls behind pictures of local fauna. The doctor was a middle-aged local recruited to the company, the curves of her wide hips struggling to be hidden by her uniform. She tried to smile, reassuring that my productivity would likely remain the same because only my ability for sexual pleasure was affected. Only. Only.

I had to ask about possible treatments three times before she sheepishly acknowledged one existed, but that she couldn’t give it to me.


A sentinel farther upstream pips a headsup. I activate one of my brainstem-tethered birds in the nearest tree and turn the toucan’s head toward the boat. Target acquired: a prim little Navigator, sitting in her boat’s cushioned exhibition pillbox, all bundled up in silver thread on silk. The girl looks even younger than I expected. Behind her stands a troupe of gendarmes in topaz armor and armed with polished red pistols. Twelve gendarmes at the deck and probably more inside. All very proper and pretty. So very safe.

My Janaina Raiders are concealed at their stations underwater or along the riverbank. They are painted black and brown, their guns the color of death, as it should be.

The boat is riding down a lesser Maderia tributary to avoid the beeline down the Amazon River from Manaus to Recife. A security precaution, but the skipper stupidly registered his route with the local Zanita-Müller HQ. I owe my source a good drugging bonus for this one.

The boat tugs at the tripline, triggering my steel-toothed fish to jump out of the water and bite at the gendarmes on deck. Several of the 200-kilogram Pirarucu manage a mouthful or two of flesh before the boat’s alarm goes up and my bombs go off. The shockwave diverts the boat and it crashes into the eastern riverbed.


The Clamp had a treatment—a cure, in fact, a cure—and it was not kept from me because it was an expensive personalized antibody medley or under another Corp’s patent. It was a Z-M product and the Corp simply refused to release it for less than an obscene amount of money, a price that clearly meant they didn’t want to sell it at all. The doctor cooed that this was for the best, that it was in fact unethical for them to openly release the drug. I was not quite angry then, just numb and hurt, like a part of me was ripped away and dangled in front of my face like it was nothing, a disgusting strip of flesh dripping blood onto the doctor’s lap.


“Protect our lady!” A strapping young officer yells, puffing his chest at the chance for heroism before I plug his hole with a bullet. The other gendarmes quickly put on their helmets but I manage to tap a straggler fumbling with his.

I drop the gun and plunge deeper into the water as bullets tear at the surface above. I turn off the fish because they can’t break through full gendarme armor, and pip for my Raiders to start.

From a dozen spots around the boat, thirty of my Raiders jump out of cover to fire at the boat from above, their shotguns shredding the gendarmes before they even get a chance to look up.

Twelve land on the deck and hustle to secure the doorways into the helm and pillbox. The rest are almost in position as well, when the back compartment of the boat opens up with a loud clank to reveal a full armature-class Gentleman. The boat rises a bit from the river as the massive war machine lifts off, servos whirling as its grav-tether heats up. Such a rare encounter, a heavy combat unit from back when the Corps waged open war against each other. A dangerous complication, but today’s prize would be a sour victory if unearned.


I left the doctor without a word and returned to my post at a forward station in some nameless stretch of jungle. I was distracted from my work and couldn’t bring myself to reply to the messages left by the handful of women in my life. A few even tracked me down to beat at the door to my small room, but I just hugged the wall to feel the vibration of their knocks, not wanting them to see me so reduced. Eventually they stopped trying just as the managerial apparatus of Zanita-Müller started to probe at my decreased productivity.


“Charge into the boat!” I yell via the comm, “the Gent won’t fire at it with the Navigator in there!”

The women all pile into the hatches and doors, facing enemy fire without the chance to debilitate the gendarmes with anesthetic beetles, as was the original plan. Three of my Raiders do not get in quickly enough and a blast of the armature’s plasma tears them apart.

I pray to them as I swim towards the circling Gentleman. I love you, Giselda, how you left Solos Corp by spitting in the face of its CFO as he inspected your struggling factory. I love you, Yone-san, that you abandoned a comfortable life at the largest Sino-Japanese Corp to fight with us, catching the Clamp in our rivers, then fighting even harder. I love you, Jaci, born to the river people of the Amazon and tired of living under the shadow of Zanita-Müller, Ramashin, and Solos.

I leap out of the water, right under the Gentleman. It has the elaborate markings and armor of a civilian unit, with the artistic detailing at the joints and a chest plate unmarred by real combat. Such a waste of firepower and versatility, but the decorative flourishes provide convenient edges for me to grab onto. The Gentleman turns around, its pilot aiming down at me, but it’s too slow, caught off-guard by my direct assault.

I grab on and scuttle to its back, detach one of my fingers and wedge it into a seam at the neck. The finger half melts, half drills-in as the Gentleman turns and twists to shake me off.

But the hole is made. I open my visor and slide out my centipede tongue and jump back into the river. Plasma peppers the water behind me.

My centipede burrows into the Gentleman’s circuitry, soon reaching a local control cable. Sloppily encrypted. I take over and point the heavy plasma rifle at its own cockpit. Three shots and the Gentleman crashes into the river. You fought well, war machine, sir.


I suffered through many inquiries, first informal meetings with efficiency analysts and psychiatrists, then more serious appointments with real management in elegant board rooms. As the regional HR manager looked down from his massive desk, I was beyond caring about the theater of petty office intimidation. He was talking about my experience with the Clamp, a topic often brought up in those meetings, when he said “I simply cannot fathom the Clamp being such a burden. I personally infected myself with it years ago and have never been happier.” He sat straight-backed and immaculately groomed, a paragon of Z-M cultural refinement, and he seemed to be telling the truth. I hated him for that, a hate boiling as hot as the sex I could no longer feel. Then I finally got angry.


I check on my Raiders and find them making good headway, so I tell them to demand surrenders. The gendarmes should realize they are outmatched now that their big boy is down. It takes a few more kills, but they soon get the message and lay down their weapons.

“Six minor injuries, two medium. Three deaths.” Maiara communicates through a text pip. Always formal and proper, the best kind of second. Especially when I get casualties.

“Three of our braves have won a sweet death today,” I speak at the open commas I leap onto the boat, “we will drink to their names and remember their pleasures. Because of them, we taste another victory.”

“The Navigator surrendered,” Maiara pips, her text muting the I Love You's her crew sings to the dead.

I linger at the upturned prow, wiping my face of river water before I reload another finger and centipede. The boat is bright white against the greens and browns of the jungle, its pompous Corp name stenciled with gold lettering: Saber Dream of Zanita-Müller.

“Burn the name off,” I order as I leave the deck. Zanita-Müller loves the trappings of status and pride, so names of every vessel are footnoted by many layers of cultural dessinateurs and hierarchy scribes. They are minor entries of little import, and burning the name off a boat only adds a vague sense of shame to the final entry of the vessel’s history. But no slight is too small.

Several nearby Raiders leap to the task with a smile.


That very moment I started to become who I am today, with my anger blooming in the São Paulo office of Gerard Paul-Wertz, among his tastefully levitating furniture and abstract art imported from Parisian salons. I picked up a triangular knob meant to represent some ridiculous Z-M cultural sophistry and threw it at him. His eyes panicked as he turned to the side, but an edge grazed his head and he started to bleed. I almost managed to flip the table on him as well before a pair of Gendarmes burst into the room and dragged me away.


“Hello!” The young Navigator lounges in her oversized couch as if nothing happened and beams when she sees me walk into the vaulted room. “You must be the infamous Sifter! It’s a pleasure to finally meet you!”

“She opened the restraints somehow. Twice,” Maiara pips, “but she just sits there. Should I try disabling her?”

“No need to talk behind my back,” the girl says, almost pouting, “I can hear it.”

So she can intercept and break local comm-to-comm chatter in real time. Good to know the metal of a Navigator’s skills. The rumors surrounding them are vague at best, often claiming absurd prowess with networked systems. The sort of talk certainly started by people without any real technical skill.

“No,” I say to Maiara aloud, who slowly steps away from the Navigator, unsure of what to make of the wispy girl. “I need to talk to the prisoner alone. Get any surviving gendarmes out of here, shave their heads and beards. The dead get to keep their hair.”

Maiara drags out the few remaining men, their eyes wide at the thought of losing their long braids and elaborate mustaches. A few even offer some paltry resistance before Maiara stabs one in the knee with a machete.

“Hi!” The Navigator tries again, “my name is Rosegarden Filigree. My friends call me Rosie.”

“I will not call you that. Be careful, Rosegarden. We can sell you to some very brutal people. We can be brutal people.”

“But certainly you will refrain, for you want a boon beyond some petty ransom.”

How fearless and perceptive of her. Or stupid and arrogant.

“Yes. And if you give it to us, you will be set free unharmed. I want you to hand over the formulation to Zanita-Müller’s cure to the Clamp.”

“Oho! Such a bold request! We can’t sell it for much profit if it is thus divulged, after all. Would it not be easier to relinquish your sexual desires? It is all very uncouth and disgusting, after all.”

“You people can fetishize celibacy all you want. I want my pussy back.”

“Oh dear!” Rosegarden blushes behind a raised sleeve, “how animalistic! Very well, I may obtain the cure, but I require suitable remuneration.”

Damn little brat. Navigator or not, she learns respect right now. I lift a leg and step onto a gendarme corpse, unholstering my sidearm. “You are not in a position to negotiate.”

The girl is still for a second, her gaze drifting down. Then she gets up from her pillows and I can’t move. Why can’t I move?

“You are clever and very good at marshalling your limited resources,” she whispers, upper lip almost touching my ear. The Navigator catches a tuft of her blond hair and brushes the tip of my nose, her green eyes wide, “but I am superior in computational dynamics. It is who I am all the way down. I slipped the information to your agent and dismissed much of my retinue so I could meet you today. This was all a lure.”

I say nothing as I struggle to access each of my systems, but I’m locked out.

“You are free to move now.” Rosegarden leans on a golden statue of a stiff medieval knight, stretching like a lazy cat.

My systems are back. They are only medium-depth implants onto my limbs and a full tongue add-on so none of it should be able to paralyze me like this. The Navigator must have dug deep into the root systems, behind the keyed software rosegardenlayers. It should not have been possible. I am among the least modified of my Raiders. If Rosegarden can do this to me, she can incapacitate us all. Take out my entire army from the comfort of her pillbox.

I clench my teeth at the power of the Corp, that a Navigator is in fact more formidable than I could have imagined. I came too hungry for the lost pleasures of my body and was blindsided. It is I who am lacking in respect here, not the Navigator.


There was barely an interrogation after my outburst. I was swiftly confined to quarters and assigned intensive psychological intervention. Before the first shrink could show up, I hacked my monitoring bracelet and ran into the forest with nothing more than the clothes on my back. I only regret not causing more damage as I left.


“If you are this good, why need me at all?” I spit out with no small bitterness. To be used by the Corp again barely seems worth it, even for something as important as ending the Clamp.

“I find myself in want of a particular trifle deep in Aymoré territory, and thus require passage and protection.”

“And if we do this, you will give us the cure to the Clamp?”

“Yes.” Rosegarden’s answer might be a lie; I have no choice but to play along.

“Then why the Gentleman? Three of mine died because of your war machine.”

“I still needed to determine if your reputation was warranted, of course. Truants of your ilk tend to brag, as I am sure you are aware.”

“Hm. Aymoré territory is well guarded. What do you need?”

“Something beneath mention or concern; just assure my safe and uninterrupted presence at these coordinates for but an hour or two. Perhaps less.”

A set of coordinate ranges pips onto my visor. Feasible entry, but not easy. The Aymoré are vicious and in the pocket of the Solos Corp, so they will have heavy weaponry and good sensors at their borders. Killing more Corp flunkies will not be a problem, and I would certainly be willing to kill every last Aymoré for the chance to get the cure.

“Why not have your Corp do this for you? The region is not so well defended that your forces can’t burst through.”

“Well, I don’t want to start a war with Solos, and this minor project isn’t blessed with the approval of the executive board. But they will surely defer to my wisdom upon the completion of early milestones. Should they not, perhaps defection to a more ambitious company would be in order.”

This, I like. Defections hurt both companies, one loses a valuable asset, another gains only a traitor they can never fully trust. “Very well, you have a deal, Navigator.”

Rosegarden smiles with broad, white teeth peeking out. Her smile should be light with youthful prettiness, but instead it feels sharp and threatening. Beautiful, in a way.


I was expecting them to hunt me down and drag me back to my quarters when I left. But they didn’t, so I decided to follow a river downstream until I hit a town. A stupid plan, in retrospect, as the nearest town was an impossible distance away, but a Ribeirinho spotted me from his rickety boat and kindly gave me a ride. He was very amused at my situation, and couldn’t stop smiling at my running away from the Corp.


There is no mothership for the Janaina Raiders; each two women share a pinprick Scout. The Scouts are small and fast, allowing for enhanced maneuverability underwater or within the jungle. The ships were built for a single pilot, and a veteran ace can do wonders in one. But the next best thing is two pilots working in close unison, each partner’s prosthetics direct-wired to each other and reflexes trained to act together. No Corp Gendarmerie would ever sink to such intimacy and true genius pilots are rare, so the Janaina Raiders tend to rout Corp pilots often.

Maiara is my usual partner, but she joins Yone-san’s former partner while I carry the Navigator in my own Scout. Rosegarden strains to hold her chest away from my back, but there isn’t enough space, so she soon has to give in and press against me, the top of her legs folding into the back of my knees. Her skin is unbearably smooth and I can even feel the fullness of her breasts beneath the Navigator wrappings. Damn the Clamp for taking these pleasures away from me and damn Zanita-Müller’s twisted social engineering for not letting me get it back.

“I didn’t realize these things were so ... crowded,” Rosegarden mumbles, her cheek warm against my back. I can feel her pulse rising.

“Well, just sit back and enjoy the ride,” it’s my turn to smile, seeing that at least the Navigator might have a good time, “it can get very uncouth.”

My eighteen Scouts weave through the heavy rainclouds, sensors warping at the thunderstorms, but that means we can’t be seen as well. We ride the storms for a few minutes, then dip into the river just before the Aymoré border. They have micro-nets, of course, but we burrow into the riverbank, bypassing where the nets sieve the river.

We slow the ships and fly quiet in the water. This way nothing gets picked up by any Aymoré sentinel drones that could be in the area or Solos satellites that are likely looking in.

At one point a boat turns at a fork ahead and we stop and let our ships sink into the muddy bottom. As the boat slowly tugs against the current towards us, Rosegarden’s arms tighten on my waist. I lower a hand to pat hers in what I hope comes across as reassurance. The tension in her body loosens a bit.


After reaching one of the peripheral cities to Manaus, I was surprised to find that I wasn’t being sought by the local Z-M police. They simply wrote me off, a cog that fell off the machine. I found odd jobs with local companies servicing minor aspects of Z-M, my skills being reasonably valuable even there. I started seeing people less shackled by Corp culture: women wearing colorful dresses and men smiling openly. But none of it seemed to matter, the Clamp made me feel grey and worthless.


The boat disappears into a bend in the distance and we continue, soon making it to the shore well within the target territory, away from the closely guarded border.

I get off my Scout with Rosegarden, but tell my Raiders to stay underwater so as to avoid detection.

Rosegarden takes a large canister she brought from her boat and gazes through its clear surface at the forest beyond. She holds it up against trees and the ground, struggling over the fallen trunks and dense foliage.

“This will go faster if you tell me what you’re looking for,” I say, trying not to laugh as the Navigator’s elaborate clothing gets caught on yet another branch.

“Do not be concerned. I am quite capable of this!” Her voice is cheerful, but forcefully so.

This goes on for nearly half an hour before I lose my patience and walk up to her.

“What?” She turns, her practiced cheer replaced with irritation.

“Give me the damn sensor.”

With a very un-Corp grunt she hands me the canister and I hold it up. It is a container with a biosensor built into the side, and seems to be calibrated for a very particular bio-signature. I let it scan the jungle and start searching the area in a grid pattern, trying to make as much of a trail for Rosegarden as I can.

Finally, the machine indicates a hit, beyond a pair of trees at a large mess of spider-web several meters wide and long. You have got to be kidding me.

“This?” I turn to Rosegarden, “This is all you wanted?”

She seems surprised, especially so with her hair so disheveled and full of leaves and twigs.


“These damn spiders are all over the jungle! I know at least ten places off the top of my head where we can get them, each one far less dangerous than here!”

She says nothing and lowers her head, letting her arms fall to the side. The release makes her seem tired and small. “I’m sorry. I have limited access to some databases, this was the only location listed with proper geotags. These spiders are not very well studied and requesting more information than what I could find at the synopsis level would have drawn the wrong sort of attention.”

“Fine.” I turn back to the web and start picking the fingernail-sized spiders into the canister, feeling bad for snapping at Rosegarden but still annoyed at the unnecessary risk. The spiders each freeze as they hit the bottom, flash-cryofrozen, apparently.

“Make sure to pick at least a dozen from the periphery,” Rosgarden says as she climbs a fallen log to look deeper into the web, stabilizing herself by grabbing my shoulder, “and thirty or so from the center of the communal web, that’s where the females are.”

“I know, I can tell them apart.”


“Of course. This is my home, after all.”

A roach falls into the web from a nearby ironwood tree, the spiders swarm their prey, and in barely a moment scatter back across the web, leaving a struggling cocoon behind. Rosegarden’s hand lingers on my shoulder as I keep picking the spiders.

“What do you need these for, after all?” I ask.

“The thread.” the Navigator reaches out to touch a structural fiber of the large web, pulling at a single strand that bends but doesn’t break. “It’s incredibly strong, higher tensile strength per unit mass than steel or carbon alloy.”

“Not bad, it would make strong armor and allow some easier construction.”

“Not just any construction, the construction. An orbital elevator. No more need to circumvent the extra-atmospheric debris field with every takeoff or surround ships with massive protective hulls. No more need to build Navigators like me.”

Her shoulders stoop and she looks away. Rosegarden is hurting, her Corp-talk stripped away. I turn to her and raise my hand to meet hers on my shoulder. She is not a client right now, she is my sister.

“Life is good under Zanita-Müller,” Rosegarden continues, “I see that every day in my ship. All get their fair share and a chance to rise in the hierarchy or contribute to the culture. We have much of everything. Nothing is out of place and everything has its place. And even though they bicker among themselves, not much is different in the other corporations. I am just so bored and tired. It’s all so suffocating.”

The clouds part and a massive ship tears down with a boom. A Zanita-Müller Colossus flagship, hot-dropped from orbit.

“Scatter, Raiders!” I buzz into my visor as I pick Rosegarden up and run to my Scout, remotely activated and screaming across the jungle towards us. Rosegarden shrieks and grabs my arm with a fearful gasp, fingers digging deep.

I underestimated how important Navigators are for the Corps, the totality of the resources they would burn through to get one back. A ship that size downed from orbit would lose several layers of protective shielding when crossing the debris field. Or have direct control from a Navigator.

Dozens of Scouts and Silver-Snipes detach from the flagship, one shooting at my Scout just beyond the foliage. The explosion throws me back and I place myself between the trees and Rosegarden so she is unharmed.

I struggle to get up but my head is light and I move slowly. Directly above, three Corp Scouts loom over the treeline.

“Let’s go!” cries Rosegarden as she pulls my hand, “we have to run!”

But it’s too late. My Scout is down and we are surrounded. I see gendarmes in the distance, their colorful uniforms stark against the forest.

“Raise your hands, Rosegarden. We lost.”

A shock, and I lose consciousness.


I met Janaina in the third year of my drunken stupor, a local barkeep who also left Zanita-Müller referring her to me. She needed somebody to break into a Z-M outpost’s lockout system and I agreed before she even mentioned payment. It was the first time I shared a Scout and the first time I smiled since I got the Clamp.


I’m awake, but keep my eyes closed. The waker beetle on my neck retracts its stimulant needle and disappears back into my hair.

“I request her as my own prisoner, my good Piston. Surely the plea of a class three Navigator must sway your rather open-ended instruction. You have found me, after all.”

I recognize Rosegarden’s voice, and I can hear several other footsteps, all heavy gendarme boots.

“Your indiscretion continues to befuddle and vex your superiors.” A male voice, near where Rosegarden seems to stand. “While I am indeed unworthy of your presence, alas, your desire cannot undo the wisdom of those who are. And you simply cannot order a criminal brought to this bridge!”

I scan my body. My weapons are gone, but all my prosthetics are in place, and the Navigator’s canister still hangs at my waist. That could be why she wants me back, for some reason she can’t just take the spiders without drawing attention.

“Older sister Filigree must be fatigued,” a cheerful voice sings in condescending sweetness. “May I be so bold as to suggest that you return to your rooms and refresh yourself, perhaps contemplate on your recent actions?”

I hazard to slit an eye open, and among many stiff gendarmes I see a grizzled man in a Piston’s uniform and two women in similar dresses, one of them Rosegarden. The other must be this craft’s Navigator. Take her down and the whole flagship is earthlocked, possibly even immobilized.

A pip crawls across my visor, “I see you are awake. Excellent. I opened your restraints. Kill the other Navigator then take me hostage. We can win this still.”

I am starting to really like this woman. Time to earn my death.


Janaina taught me how to fire a gun and fly tandem in pinprick Scouts. With her I also relearned how to be happy. In time I joined her small group and took great pleasure in stealing from poorly guarded outposts and minor transports. I never figured out why she fought against Corp power; she had little malice in her and the fighting seemed like a game, death just another way to add excitement to the hunt. For a while I tried to emulate her levity, but when her body splattered against my ship after being torn apart by a Solos landmine I turned her group into my Raiders. The hunt into a war.


Eyes closed, I slowly aim my hand at the flagship’s Navigator and shoot out a finger. No sounds except a dull thud and I sweep up, tripping the gendarmes around me and charging at Rosegarden. A few gendarmes should have been able to tackle me to the ground but their reactions fall short. I reach Rosegarden and grab her by the neck with one arm as I slam myself against the wall. Then I pull her against me and hold a finger to her forehead. The other Navigator is limp on the floor, blood rapidly pooling beneath a large hole on her forehead.

“Stop!” My best projected voice, authoritative and final. “I will walk out of here with your Navigator and get on a Scout, try anything and I will take you all down with me, starting with her!”

The men and women of the bridge stare in shock, the gendarmes raising their weapons. They hesitate, however, distracted by Rosegarden’s utterly believable whimpers and sobs.

“Weapons down! Do not risk lady Rosegarden’s life! Weapons down!” the Piston cries, arms upraised.

Keeping my back to the wall, I head to the exit aperture at the nearest end of the room. Just before I reach the door, I spit out a centipede at the navigation console, the operative at the station jumping back with a shriek as my tongue burrows in.

“Destroy that station! Fire!” the Piston shouts.

A few gendarmes open fire, but it’s too late. My centipede is deep in the system as Rosegarden opens the door behind me. I step back with her, the door closing with a slither of metal on metal.

I turn, expecting to find more gendarmes, but none are in the empty hallway. I release Rosegarden, who rubs her neck and turns to me, her chest heaving and cheeks flushed.

“Come with me,” she grabs my hand and starts running down the hall, “I can get you to a Scout.”

I run behind her, doors opening before us and locking behind.

“Do you still have control of your strange tongue?” she asks.

“Yes, I’m having it jump from console to console. It can’t do much damage because many of the systems are locked already.”

“Good, this way I can blame your escape on your tongue giving you access. With no other Navigators aboard I can sanitize the logs later as well.”

She looks back at me as she swipes open another door, with small wrinkles in her eyes and cheeks from her wide laughter. A real smile this time. So very beautiful.

We reach an empty bay and I look into one of the Scouts. It will do.

“May I?” Rosegarden asks, pointing at the canister.

“First release the cure blueprints into the public nets.” I place the canister in her hand, but don’t let go.

Her shoulders relax and she looks down, eyes unfocused. I look up and around, feeling very exposed in the large cargo bay.

“Done. You will also be able to escape undetected if you take the route I uploaded to the Scout’s navigation system.”

I have no way of ensuring any of this is true, but I let go of the canister. Rosegarden steps back, pressing it against her chest, but keeps staring at me.

“Goodbye, Rosie, it was an honor to fight at your side.”

She says nothing, but holds the container tighter.

I enter the Scout and turn back to her as I boot up the system, “My name is not Sifter; that is just what the Zanita-Müller police nicknamed me. My real name is I-Juca-Pirama. If you are ever tired of Corp life, come find us in the jungle. I would like to ride with you again.”

I close the hatch and am jettisoned from the flagship. With the Scout’s zoom-reticule I see Rosegarden lingering at the bay to see my ship disappear below.


Janaina once told me a story her mother told her. There was a war between the Tupí and the Timbiras, where a Tupí warrior called I-Juca-Pirama was captured and poised to be eaten by the Timbiras, but begged for his life so that he could take care of his aging father. He was released, as the Timbiras didn’t want to eat the flesh of a coward. But his father also cast him out for bringing shame to the Tupí. The warrior, exiled and humiliated, alone fought against the entire Timbiras people and killed many before being captured and eaten with honor. The story is a lie, of course, a retelling by a 19th-century poet seeking to romanticize the people his kind helped exterminate. I am drawn to the shadows of the old story lurking behind its surviving form, however, so I adopted the name of the lone warrior and the desperate glory of his struggle.


The route back is clear, as promised, and I soon rejoin my Raider sisters. We drink, we dance, and we mourn. The cure is online, and already independent chemists from around the world are competing with each other to sell it at the lowest price. Soon I will be able to drink, dance, and fuck.

The night is hot and dank, so I take a bottle of Cachaça and lie atop my Scout just above the trees to stare at the stars and think of Rosie. An orbital elevator would bring everything so much closer, making the world that much smaller. The catharsis of battle will be even further replaced with the suffocating regularity of order and progress. But maybe shaping the specifics of a new order is Rosegarden’s own battle, how she finds meaning and purpose within the Corp she was born into. As much as I like to imagine her joining my narrow hammock and flying with my Raiders, I cannot deny anyone their chosen battle. May she live well and die happy. I point up to the sky with my finger, as if fighting against the very stars themselves. It would be a good fight, a good death. the end

Santiago Belluco is a writer from Switzerland. He attended last year’s Viable Paradise Workshop in Martha’s Vineyard, and has had stories accepted by “Stupefying Stories” and the “Sunvault Anthology.” His previous story for us was 12-FEB-2016.


ervin ad 4/16



martland 10/16